Jet lag

You’ve arrived at your new destination and there is so much to see, so much to do! Why are you feeling so tired, so discombobulated, so “out of body”?

Jet Lag is a short term sleep disorder that affects travellers who have crossed more than five time zones in a short period of time. The body’s sleep rhythm has been thrown out of whack and the further the distance, the longer the effects.

  1. Sleepiness
  2. Confusion
  3. Nausea
  4. Diarrhea, Constipation
  5. Insomnia
  6. Irritability

It is felt that the effects of going east to west (losing time – Vancouver to Frankfurt) is the more difficult transition. Thankfully there are steps you can take to prevent or at least lessen the effects prior to arrival as well as some tips to help you get fresh in transit.



1.  If your schedule allows it, try to prepare your body for the new time a week or so prior to departing. If you’re travelling east, go to bed an hour or so later each night. If travelling west, earlier.

2.  On the flight, stay hydrated. No caffeine and avoid alcohol, both of which disrupt sleep patterns.

3.  Set your watch to your destination time as soon as you board. Try to eat and sleep while on the aircraft according to your destination time zone.

4.  Consider melatonin which is a natural hormone created by your body which induces a sleep cycle. Take it 30 minutes prior to when you are wanting to sleep and continue taking it for up to four days after you arrive to regulate sleep patterns. (Always check with your physician prior to taking melatonin.)

5.  Prepare for sleep on the plane. Carry ear plugs or those amazing noise reduction headphones and an eye mask to truly assist you in sleeping in a public area. Now is the time to upgrade to business class if at all possible!



1.  Upon arrival you must try to stay awake until your new destination’s bedtime. At most allow yourself a one hour nap.  Do not fall asleep, you will only delay the transition.

2.  Exercise! It’s true! If it’s daytime when you arrive push yourself outside and wander the streets while taking in the effects of the sunlight. The exposure helps your brain adjust to the new time schedule.

3.  Eat light meals your first day. Not only is your sleep cycle disrupted but so is your digestive system. A large rich meal will make it that much harder to adapt.

4.  Protein-rich breakfast the day after arrival will also aid in alertness.

If you take prescribed medications such as birth control or insulin at certain times of the day, you should consult with your physician as to how to stay on track while overseas. The effects of jet lag can ebb and flow over the years as well. You may quickly bounce back in your 20s, be completely knocked out while travelling with your kids in your 40s to only find that the kid-free, retirement-style travel of your 60s is again easily endured. In any event, don’t stress. The effects of jet lag are temporary and with some simple adjustments will not impair your enjoyment of your holiday.

More The Joy of Travel articles

About the Author

Joy has long been a believer in the art of travel: the belief that a vacation is something to be anticipated savored and then long remembered as one of life’s great adventures. 
Website: thejoyoftravel.ca

You can contact Joy at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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